Concert Reviews

Babymetal at the Danforth Music Hall

Photographs by Kevin Leung.

I’ve been to many, many shows in my years on this planet but last night’s gig by Japan’s Babymetal definitely stands out as one of the weirdest live experiences I’ve had.  

I had never heard the band before last night but knew their name thanks to a photo and review that stood out from last year’s Heavy MTL fest.  Three young Japanese girls choreographed in steps and style, busting moves to molten metal had to be experienced to truly understand.

Initially I thought I’d easily be the oldest guy in the venue surrounded by preschoolers that outgrew Barney.  I knew this wouldn’t be the case as I rationalized to myself on my walk to the Danforth Music Hall that if they could survive Heavy MTL then Babymetal couldn’t be fluff.

The venue was packed and not with kids.  I also wasn’t the oldest and I wasn’t in a parental bay.  I spent 30 minutes before show time just scanning the crowd which seemed to be the most cross-sectional crowd I’ve been part of in ages.  Another surprise with the show was the amount of women there, easily the most women I’ve ever seen at a heavy show.  

30 minutes before their early set time (their 8:30 start time was another reason I thought the place would be rammed with kids) the “Babymetal” chants and claps were at a feverish pitch.  Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” came on over the speakers and I had to wipe my glasses clean just to be sure Metallica was not on stage – the majority of the crowd singing the song at the top of their lungs while a very small minority of us wondered what was going on.

When the short film, a la Star Wars, explaining the origins and mantra of Babymetal was over, the group teased the crowd from behind a screen.   The screen came down and the floor heaved to the front while a blistering aural assault erupted from on the stage.  

From my vantage point, it looked like only one of the girls were handling vocals while the other two assisted in getting a very energized crowd to throw their arms in the air in unison or just jump around.  It was a bit surreal for me, like watching the Spice Girls collide with Slayer.  

Backed by four guys sporting ghostly white makeup, the band were definitely technically proficient and thankfully got their due by getting some alone time on stage and play the obligatory metal solos.  And they seemed just as happy as the happy boppy girls in front of them.  The choreography was interesting and definitely went surprisingly well with the music, almost looking like a workout soundtrack alternative to high energy dance music.  The crowd were delirious and even a language barrier couldn’t contain their enthusiasm.  In fact, all those women in the venue collectively lost their shit which was definitely a breath of fresh air.  

For an old guy it was totally disorienting.  Breaking down the metal template which is probably a good thing, Babymetal offered a completely different perspective on the presentation and consumption of metal music.  Even me writing “choreography” and “metal” in the same article is a bit baffling to me.  I may not fully understand but I fully respect it.  And by the reaction of the ladies, this is possibly a long overdue refreshing change.

Musically, the band were all over the place, tackling metal, rap-rock, technometal and even reggae at one point.  Did it work?  Mostly, but between these stylistic changes and costume changes for that matter would occasionally killed any momentum that was built.  

I’m not sure how much touring Babymetal has done, but as their profile grows and they put some more miles on the tour bus they will probably be a well-oiled must-see entertaining touring machine.  If they keep women coming out to heavy shows, then all the power to them and may they inspire that unbridled enthusiasm which was definitely the highlight of the night.

Thanks to Live Nation Ontario for media access.

About author

Concert reviewer at Live in Limbo.